During my first year as President of The Union – and the 97th of the organisation’s existence – I was struck by the commitment of our members and staff to its founding principles, and how these ambitious goals still resonate and drive us today.
In 1920, when the world’s leading tuberculosis (TB) experts came together to form a united front to tackle a global epidemic, TB was not treatable, not curable, not widely preventable. Thanks to the herculean efforts of scientists and advocates over the last century, TB is now all of these things.
Then and now, The Union, with its members at the heart, have frequently led the charge, pushing science and policy into brave new territory to protect and promote lung health – from developing new medicines to treat TB, to new laws that reduce tobacco use. We remain united in our dedication to improving health among people living in poverty around the world.
“The Union and its members have frequently led the charge, pushing science and policy into brave new territory to protect and promote lung health.”
Huge progress has been made, and is being made. Yet as I write this, huge challenges remain. TB is the leading cause of death by an infectious disease, and in 2016 alone, 10.4 million people fell ill with it. Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death worldwide, killing more than seven million people each year. And rates of non-communicable disease (NCDs) are sky-rocketing around the world.
Now is the time for The Union to take a stand, and to call on others to join this fight to end TB. 2018 offers a unique opportunity to take this challenge to the highest political levels, with the first ever United Nations High-Level Meeting (UN HLM) on TB. I urge Union members, staff and consultants to use their expertise, wisdom and compassion to build on the momentum around this event, and as the founders of this great organisation did almost one hundred years ago – to unite, and act.
Our 2017 Annual Report is a testament to the progress we are making through unswerving commitment to advancing lung health, with significant developments across all areas of our work. Members published the second edition of ‘Best practices for the care of patients with tuberculosis: a guide for low-income countries’, established a TB and ethics working group, and launched a zoonotic TB roadmap.
Our work continues on the frontline. And it is with keen anticipation that we look forward to breaking significant new ground in 2018, and the years to come.
DR JEREMIAH CHAKAYA MUHWA